:: Article

Morton Bonsey

By Randall Brown.

A computerized random name generator gave Morton Bonsey his name. I wonder what Morton wants; most of my characters want to inhabit discarded bodies—that of my grandfather, aunt, mother, brother, ex-es—but Morton feels different. He wants his own body and life. I’m not sure how to give him that.

I put Morton in a diner because I’ve never been in a diner. It’s silver and has a jukebox at each table. It’s called Wolfie’s. Their specialty is Boston Cream Pie. Morton drinks the half and half containers. Morton wants his own desires and I’m lactose intolerant. He orders the pie with ice cream. He orders milkshakes. He gets tiny containers of Lucky Charms and puts half and half on them.

He’s stretched out thin, though. He wears Oakley sunglasses. He has sun-bronzed hair. He does dangerous things like dive off cliffs and surf tsunami-size waves. He smiles sincerely at the too-heavy waitress. He likes her. He could take her home and know what to do. He could love her.

He flicks through the jukebox offerings. He likes unironic songs about America and picks a Garth Brooks one. The waitress likes him too. It’s the end of her shift and she’ll go with him. Morton wants to come to my house. I wait for him and the waitress—Corrine—downstairs by the unlit fireplace and the vacant television. I leave the door ajar.

“I want something different,” Morton says when he arrives and sits on the couch next to Corrine who weighs almost as much as I do. He’s a bit wound-up. He might start choking me.

Corrine is placid, just there. I’m not sure why she’s there. She has a beehive hairdo and doodles on her order pad. She draws pictures of poodles.

“Whatever you want,” I tell Morton. I don’t say this because of that fear he will choke me; I say it because I’d like Morton to be happy, for someone to be happy and why not Morton?

“What should we ask for, Corrine?” When did they become a “we”?

Corrine looks up, then continues to doodle. “I’m not sure what a man like that can get for us, Morty.” Morty? He’s a Morty now? “Maybe we could just stay the night.”

They do. Their lovemaking hammers through the house like contractors working on a renovation. Then footsteps and Morton knocks on my door and walks in. He sits on the blanket chest at the foot of the bed.

“Your happiness. It worries me.” He waits but I don’t have anything to say about it. “Corrine’s a real knockout. Thanks.”

“I had nothing to do with it, Morty.”

“If you say so.”

In the morning, Morton’s gone. Corrine’s all broken up. She fixes lactose-free pancakes and we talk about Morty, what a great guy. Nothing like you, Corrine says. I know, I say. That’s what I liked best about him.

Me too, she says. She goes on a crying jag for a while. I wonder what Morty would do. He’d be a rock for Corrine. I let her lean against me. She smells like suntan lotion and oceans and faraway paradises where Morton Bonsey rides waves and sunsets and worries about my happiness, of all things. We are alike, Morton and I, after all. We both want to live.


Randall Brown teaches at Saint Joseph’s University. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Eclipse, Hunger Mountain, Connecticut Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Evansville Review, Laurel Review, Dalhousie Review, upstreet, and others. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press 2008) and will have an essay on (very) short fiction in the forthcoming anthology The Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field (Rose Metal Press, 2009). He holds an MFA from Vermont College and is on-staff at the flash journal Smokelong Quarterly.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, July 30th, 2008.